Sexual abuse by clergy
Child and youth sexual abuse by clergy:
Claims of recovered memories
Recovered memories and clergy abuse:
There have been many past allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy.
However, the accusations reached a very high profile during early 2002 with
charges against Roman Catholic clergy in the Boston MA area. This, in turn,
triggered other accusations in other Dioceses elsewhere in the U.S.
of these claims involved what the media call "recovered memories"
On this web site, we differentiate between "recovered memories" and what
we call "dormant memories."
Recovered memories: Many mental health professionals during the 1980s and early 1990s used
recovered memory therapy (RMT) to search for abuse
events in their patient/client's past. Unfortunately, they used long-term suggestive and
experimental therapies, such as hypnotism, guided imagery, visualizations,
dream therapy, age regression, past life regression, erc. These
often generated many false memories -- images of abuse created after
months of therapy. They coalesced into what felt
like real memories, but which were unrelated to real events.
believed that memories of abuse during childhood had been repressed at
the time by the victim, and only recovered later during adulthood. In
almost every case, it is impossible to find evidence that the events
actually happened. Many tens of
thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- of victims of this dangerous
therapy were generated. A similar number of families of origin were negatively
impacted. Some innocent parents went to jail, having been convicted of crimes
that never happened.
RMT became generally discredited as a therapeutic technique
in the late 1990s, and few mental health professionals continue to use it today.
However, recovered memories appear to have come back into vogue with the Boston
clergy abuse cases. It has also resurfaced in a modified form, known as
Dormant memories appear to be a different phenomenon. Some
sort of trigger results in a flood of memories surfacing very suddenly.
The trigger may be the reading of a newspaper article, seeing a
photograph, visiting a place from one's childhood, etc. No therapy is
involved. The person is
often overwhelmed by the memories -- apparently of an event that they
had forgotten about. No memory repression is involved; just normal
Dormant and repressed memories are very different phenomena. It is our belief that recovered memories are almost never related to real
events, and that dormant memories are as accurate as memories that have
been continuously remembered since the event. However, most investigators
and reporters do not differentiate between the two. As a result, dormant
memories have been lumped together with recovered memories, and both are
ignored as invalid.
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Copyright © 2002 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-JUL-30
Latest update: 2009-OCT-12
Author: B.A. Robinson